If you've been reading BT Powerhouse recently you've probably noticed we've started a series taking some early looks at the possible depth charts for the upcoming 2014-15 season. Since we're aiming to cover all 14 teams in the conference with this series I'm typing up this Purdue piece even though it's safe to say that only one or two spots are likely to be set by the start of the season and we're just as likely to see a committee approach until Painter trims down the rotation come conference play.
The anchor for Purdue's frontcourt will be junior A.J. Hammons. Hammons is also the only guy on the entire roster that we know for sure will be starting come November. The seven footer will likely have a shot in the NBA by 2015, especially if he continues improving his game like he did last season. After a freshmen season that was sporadic and prone to effort questions, Hammons turned into a quality starting center in his sophomore season. His defensive prowess, ability to block shots and eat up rebounds means he'll have a chance to be one of the best centers in the Big Ten. Offensively though Hammons still has issues with putting the ball down when he shouldn't, shuffling his feet and a lack of touch on shots not under the rim. Mix in critical issues with fouls and there's definitely several areas for the big to improve on, but he'll be a solid foundation for Purdue's frontcourt.
Likely backing him up will be a pair of freshmen in Isaac Haas and Jacquil Taylor. Haas is a four star, top 100 prospect that measures in at a hefty 7'2 and very well could be the guy going forward once Hammons departs. There's a solid chance we could see quite a bit of three star 6'9 Jacquil Taylor, a big likely to remind Purdue fans of JaJuan Johnson when it comes to his frame and style of play. Measuring in at only 6'9 you could possibly see Taylor play at the four a little, but Painter has shied away from playing big ball when he had the opportunity last season with Hammons and Simpson.
That means whoever will anchor the four will likely be a bit undersized. Last season we saw a modest amount of freshman Basil Smotherman and he brought a modest, but inconsistent, level of play to the court. Look for Painter to test Smotherman and see if he can make strides offensively in his sophomore season. There's a strong possibility Purdue could play small ball as well, with a strong possibility we'll see three guard rotations, as well as possibly rotations with two guards, two wings and Hammons as the only true big on the court.
Once again this will be interesting heading into the season. The most likely starting spot to be handed out prior to season is also the one with possibly the biggest question mark. Three star point guard P.J. Thompson might turn into a viable option here, but the fact that he wasn't offered until after Painter likely knew about Ronnie's impending transfer is a bit troubling. There's potential here, but Thompson isn't exactly a known commodity and his play could go either way. Painter and company are hoping for the best here as Bryson Scott struggled heavily running the point last season and will benefit from moving back to the two spot, but past Scott there is no one left on the roster to back up Thompson. Regardless, a true freshmen being called on in the Big Ten will have growing pains, but Painter's hands are more or less tied here.
The rest of the backcourt is in flux. First off you could speculate if Painter will go small or if he'll try to go for size and utilize some of his freshmen bigs. The reality is we'll probably see quite a bit of playing time being spread around here. There's a lot of hype about Vince Edwards and how he's been Painter's main target for quite some time so it's hard to think he'll ride the bench, but there's quite a bit of hype surrounding the shooting and effort level of shooting guard Dakota Mathias. Of course the previously mentioned Bryson Scott will look to flourish at the two and could land the starting spot with the departure of Terone Johnson, but there's definitely going to be a log jam and mass competition in the offseason for playing time come fall.
Also in the mix is junior Rapheal Davis and sophomore Kendall Stephens. Rapheal Davis has quietly been taking more of a leadership role and the idea of him breaking out in his junior season would make sense, but offensively he has a tendency to disappear and he could definitely lose minutes if he isn't a major contributor on offense. As for Stephens, with all of the incoming players looking for minutes, one has to wonder if he'll be relegated to a sixth man role, being utilized mainly as a three point specialist. That could be a possible scenario if the sophomore doesn't improve his shot selection as he had an itchy trigger finger this past season. With Stephens healthy this offseason look for him to bulk up a little bit and try to balance out his game, looking to progress in similar fashion to former Wolverine Nik Stauskas (before any comments, my comparison is that Stephens will try to go from merely a three point shooter to a considerably more balanced offensive weapon...not turn into the next Stauskas).
There's a lot of questions on the potential starting lineup for Purdue next season and just as many question as to what style Painter will work on utilizing. Right now it's safe to say A.J. Hammons is a lock at the center position and necessity will force Painter to turn to freshmen P.J. Thompson at the point. Past that everything is more or less open, with experience and familiarity likely giving Bryson Scott and Basil Smotherman early starting nods. Freshmen Vince Edwards is hoping to be an early contributor and help Purdue find some offense and should see immediate playing time, but look for Painter to keep Rapheal Davis, Kendall Stephens and Dakota Mathias all heavily involved in the rotation as well. Due to his size advantage it's a strong possibility Haas will backup Hammons while Jacquil Taylor will try to carve out playing time at both the four and five spot.
Rounding out the package are walk-ons Stephen Toyra and Neal Beshears. Neither will likely see considerably playing time but Painter has turned to Toyra to send a message to the players on the team in the past. Beshears hasn't seen as much playing time but he'll be the only senior on the roster this season for the Boilers.